Don't Dismiss the Power of Athleisure: Top 5 Reasons It's Here to Stay

3/17/2015
In the past few months, we've seen power-house companies such as Gap and Kate Spade re-evaluate strategies and close their brands Piperlime and Kate Spade Saturday. While both companies offered great product that was on trend, consumers never really caught on.

Unfortunately this is all too common a story in the retail industry. For those who survive, it's all about how you adapt to the fast-changing fashion industry. Brands need to be flexible and able to focus on the parts of their business that will make them the most relevant to the consumer, which is usually based on current trends. But what is it that's capturing consumers' attention right now?

Athleisure. 

Athleisure falls somewhere in between gym wear and streetwear. It's active wear, but it's not really meant to be sweat in. It's comfortable, it's fashionable and it's everywhere. In fact, Nike CEO Mark Parker said that "leggings are the new denim" at Nike's Women 2014 Innovation Summit in October. 

However, athleisure is more than a trend – it's a cultural shift in how we are dressing. In order to remain competitive and succeed in this industry, retailers need to embrace this change. Ultimately, this could potentially be one of the reasons that Gap chose to focus on its core brands vs. investing time in Piperlime. But how do you adapt to this change?

1. Interact with and listen to your customer. Spend time on the sales floors or with customer service on the phones. You can't know what people want if you don't ask and watch and learn. Watch what people are wearing, asking for, or buying.

2. Shop the trade shows and keep an eye out for new up and coming brands. Major brands have great heritage but don't forego the boutique brands. Make sure to walk into booths from brands you may not be familiar with. This gives a great point of difference and an exclusive shopping experience for the customer.

3. Merchandise your selection with multiple categories of product that speaks to the end consumer. More athletic-inspired footwear should be paired with active-inspired apparel. Match cool leather street sneakers with denim and more fashion-forward clothes.

4. When you're at the shows, on vacation, or traveling, take time to just "people watch." The best way to find the best product and trends is to see what people in other markets are wearing on the street. I love shopping Europe, grabbing a drink and seeing what trends will make it to North America. You'll get great ideas on brands and how to merchandise more products for your customer.

5. Get subscriptions to different periodicals and blogs. You can get a great idea of what's trending by style and brand. Utilize everything you can to stay on top of brands and styles.

Will we still be talking about athleisure in 10 years? It's too soon to tell. But it's safe to say, consumers love this comfortable yet functional trend so it will be here for a while.


Roger Hardy is the CEO of SHOES.com, which directly connects customers all over the world with premium clothing, accessory and footwear brands. His vision is to create the premier global marketplace for customers to get expert advice, discover leading, boutique and exclusive brands. Prior to SHOES.com, Hardy founded and was CEO of one of the top 100 e-commerce companies in the world, Coastal Contacts, Inc. 

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